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The first couple of sentences in any cover letter have a loaded task: they are supposed to grab the attention of a recruiter who has already reviewed hundreds of applications. Then they need to convince a hiring manager to dive deeper into your background to find out whether your skills and personality match the position they need to fill.
Conveying all this in a few lines is by no means easy. After all, the beginning of an application letter should be catchy, but not overselling (especially when you are a student or graduate who doesn’t have years of experience to refer to). It should be professional sounding, but not boring. And the border between those extremes is sometimes blurry.
Therefore, it is a good idea to have a couple of cover letter examples you can fall back on, when you are desperate for inspiration. We have picked a few examples for first sentences in cover letters. (We have also included a brief explanation when to choose a certain sentence and what pitfalls to avoid in connection with it.)
1) The ‘better safe than sorry’ example
“I have read your advertisement of the junior research assistant position with great interest and would like to use this opportunity to apply for said position. What has particularly sparked my interest in this job is…”
Works well when...
...you do not consider yourself a great writer and the job you have set out to apply for does not require you to be one. In that case, just keep the start of your letter simple and straight to the point.
- Referring to the position with a generic or downright wrong term. Stick to the exact one mentioned in the job description.
- Forgetting to mention a specific reason why you found the job description interesting.
2) The ‘extra confident’ example
“The sales rep position advertised by you sounds like a great match with the skills and qualifications that I have been able to acquire during [relevant study programme or employment]:…”
Works well when...
...the job you are applying for requires a certain amount of self-confidence and sales abilities - and you actually have the skills and experience to back up your claims. You just have to be aware that you are using an element of provocation here that not every recruiter finds charming.
- Using phrases like “perfect match”, “no one better for the position” etc. Remember there is a fine line between confidence and douchebag.
- Making claims that you already know you can’t deliver on - after an opening line like this, you will be subject to extra scrutiny and tough questions in any interview.
3) The ‘enthusiast’ example
“Having finished my education in international business, I’m in search of an opportunity to combine my passion for exploring cultures with my professional career. Your advertisement of the position as business development manager for the French market, therefore, appears very intriguing to me. …”
Works well when…
...you don’t have that much practical experience in the field that you are applying for and you want to convey that you are eager and willing to learn.
- Coming across as uninformed. You have to rely on the information available to you to deduct what you can possibly learn from this job. For example, writing that you are passionate to learn about auditing when you are applying for a marketing position can raise some question marks on the recruiter’s side.
- Using too many buzzwords - enthusiasm is cool, but there is such a thing as an overkill.
4) The ‘creative quote’ example
“As economist Hal Varian has observed: ‘A billion hours ago, modern homo sapiens emerged. A billion minutes ago, Christianity began. A billion seconds ago, the IBM PC was released. A billion Google searches ago ... was this morning.’ I have chosen this quote as an introduction to my application as a digital marketing manager because…”
Works well when…
...you are applying for a position or to a company where you know a certain amount of creativity is appreciated in your communication - and you actually find a relevant quote.
- Attributing a quote to the wrong person. (Double-check! Only because you’ve read Ryan Reynolds saying it in an interview, doesn’t mean that he actually came up with it... maybe he was quoting Albert Einstein? Extra points, though, when a Ryan Reynolds quote gets you an interview invitation...)
- Using generic quotes. It’s great that you “seize the day”, but no hiring manager cares. As a rule of thumb: any quote that can be found on a greeting card that features a beach, footprints in the sand and a very pink sunset are not cover letter material.
Have you decided on your opening lines? Great, now you only have to write the rest of the application. Check out our cover letter guide for more tips.
It’s time to dump the old line: “Please accept this application in response to…”
(Stuck in a career rut and need help? Watch this free webinar)
If you’re still starting your cover letter with this overused one-liner, then I implore you to stop what you’re doing, delete the line, and spend a few minutes reading this article to discover seven new examples of how you can catch the hiring manager’s attention with an attention-grabbing opening line.
Entice them with the job title and some of your standout accomplishments…
1. As an IT Director for ABC Company, I manage IT operations for a 500+ employee organization. Since I was recruited in 2005, my goal has been to modernize and scale the technology landscape and drive forward initiatives to expand the capabilities, systems, and performance across the organization. To date, the results have been impressive, including transition to a new Storage Area Network (SAN), Microsoft desktop environment, data warehouse, and Internet technology tools. Further, I have captured more than $2.5 million in development and operating cost reductions.
Keyword-rich opening lines that demonstrate fit…
2. I am a veteran Construction Manager with extensive experience in the designing, planning, budgeting, staffing, and on-site supervision of new construction and renovation projects. With 15+ years in construction and project management, I bring to ABC Company value-added expertise in:
3. As an accomplished Chief Financial Officer, I possess broad cross-functional experience in emerging, high-growth, and well-established corporations. Unlike other finance executives, my focus has not been limited to just finance but includes strategic planning, change management, system implementations, and business operations, as well as the performance improvement of teams. Highlights of my career include:
4. Designing, developing, and leading physical fitness training programs are my passions and my expertise. My 11+ years of progressive leadership experience in the U.S. Air Force, together with my upcoming ACE certification and my achievements in fitness instruction and coaching, make me an excellent candidate for your Personal Trainer position.
Highlight the fact you can meet their needs to keep them reading…
5. Cultivating relationships to deliver exceptional results is what I do best. Whether in a start-up situation or a high-growth organization, I have consistently increased sales and customer satisfaction through my ability to develop first-class sales solutions and drive professional excellence. Highlights of my career that may be of interest to you include:
6. Cross-cultural communication, multi-departmental collaboration, and producing highly detailed and dependable administrative and marketing support are what I do best.
7. Delivering massive value to my clients has been the focus of my career for the past 13 years. In my role as ___________ for ABC Company, I have unfailingly provided my clients with strategies, action plans, and the leadership necessary to enhance people, processes, and technologies. In addition, I have established a solid reputation for assessing challenges, creating solutions, and responding quickly to changing business requirements. This is the value I offer to XYZ Corporation.
Words to remember…
It’s important to remember your cover letter should be a brief introduction that demonstrates fit and motivates the employer to read your resume. If you’re narrating your whole life story or using the same old line that’s been written a million times before, then you’re not really captivating the reader or communicating the most vital information necessary to win the interview.
Using these simple points as guidelines and the cover letter samples provided above as a starting point, create your own unique and captivating opening line that draws the reader in and keeps them interested.
If you’re having trouble landing a job, watch this free webinar “How 5,000+ Professionals Got Out Of Their Career Rut” with J.T. O’Donnell. REGISTER NOW!
This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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About the author
Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, CEO of Great Resumes Fast is an expert resume writer, career and personal branding strategist, author, and presenter. Want to work with the best resume writer? If you would like us to personally work on your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile—and dramatically improve their response rates—then check out our professional and executive resume writing services at GreatResumesFast.com or contact us for more information if you have any questions.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a Work It Daily-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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